By Laura Lesley
Two faculty and five alumni from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing have been named Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing (AAN), increasing the number of UAB School of Nursing-associated fellows to 91.
This year’s faculty inductees are Associate Professor Gwendolyn D. Childs, PhD, RN, and Professor Allison Shorten, PhD, MS, RN, RM, FACM. Alumni inductees are American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Chief Clinical Officer Connie Barden, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, CCNS (MSN 1982); University of South Florida College of Nursing Director Teresa N. Gore, PhD, DNP, FNP-BC, NP-C, CHSE-A (DNP 2009); Ohio State University College of Nursing Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing Carolynn Thomas Jones, DNP, RN (BSN 1986, DNP 2013); Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing Associate Clinical Professor Lisa Muirhead, DNP, ANP-BC, FAANP (DNP 2009); and Wolfson Children’s Hospital trauma program manager Pamela Pieper, PhD, APRN, PPCNP-BC, TCRN, FAANP (MSN 1983).
There are currently more than 2,500 nurse leaders in education, management, practice, policy and research in the Academy. Fellows are selected based on significant contributions to nursing and health care, as well as sponsorship by two current Academy fellows.
New fellows will be inducted at the Academy’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., which will take place November 1-3.
Associate Professor Gwendolyn Childs joined UAB School of Nursing in 2007 after receiving her Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science from University of South Carolina-Columbia. Childs has aspired to become an American Academy of Nursing Fellow since she started to teach. “Being in the Academy is a huge acknowledgement of the work you’ve done and the impact that you have made on other nurses, other people in health care, the people in your community,” Childs said. “I went into teaching in order to teach other nurses how to be compassionate and how to provide the best care possible to their patients, so being recognized for the positive impact I have made is important to me.”
Childs’ program of research focuses on adolescent sexual behavior and sexual decision making with an emphasis on African American adolescent girls, and her long-term goal is to develop sustainable, effective interventions that promote healthy sexual decision making and sexual risk reduction among that population. She first chose to focus her research on this topic after realizing there was a lot of important information regarding HIV/AIDS and sexual health that was not being shared.
“Seeing how HIV/AIDS affects African American women, I wondered, ‘Why didn’t I know this? Why don’t we know this? Why isn’t somebody telling us about this?’ I knew someone needed to educate young, African American women on this, and a little voice in my head said, ‘You can do that,’” Childs said.
Through community groups and programs, Childs has helped educate young women and their parents about HIV/AIDS and sexual decision making. She also educates parents on how to broach the subject with their daughters. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, through which she has advocated the importance of continuing a focus on adolescents.
“At the national level, I was able to push that agenda, and now there is an entire workshop, a dedicated session for people to present their work related to adolescents,” Childs said.
Childs is an associate scientist with the UAB School of Medicine Center for AIDS Research, UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center and UAB Center for the Study of Community Health. Outside of her own research, Childs is a mentor in the Academic-Clinical Partnership between UAB SON and Children’s of Alabama, where she sees nurses regularly impact health care through projects.
“I have had many opportunities throughout my nursing career, for which I am thankful, but I would say that becoming part of the Academy is one of the most important and impactful opportunities I have had,” Childs said. “I look forward to the chance to impact a larger number of people, to be a voice for nursing and to use what I learn to further educate my students.”
Allison Shorten, PhD, MS, RN, RM, FACM, joined the UAB School of Nursing in 2016, following seven years as a professor at Yale School of Nursing.
Shorten is an Australian registered nurse and midwife, and her research on evidence-based practice in midwifery and birth choices decision aids has impacted practices internationally. The honor of becoming an American Academy of Nurses Fellow, Shorten said, comes from the recognition of her work’s impact.
“It is exciting to be part of an organization such as AAN, which helps shape the policies and direction for the nursing profession, and ultimately, the way care is provided. To have been honored in this way by the American Academy of Nursing, and to be an Australian as well as helping represent the state of Alabama in this way, it means so much to me,” Shorten said.
She also credits her family as a factor in her success. She moved with her husband and two sons to the United States in 2009, and without their support, the fellowship would not have been attainable. “This Fellowship is for them, too,” she said.
Shorten is a fellow of the Australian College of Midwives and has made significant contributions to the midwifery profession and international research identifying key factors that influence birth outcomes and supporting shared decision making in pregnancy. She was one of the first scholars to write about evidence-based practice in nursing and over two decades has worked to gather robust evidence to educate care providers and women about models of care and birth choices.
“When it came to making decisions about birth following a caesarean, I examined the variations in practice across Australia and was surprised that practice variations were not necessarily determined by case mix or medical condition, so I wondered if it was about information availability for patients and care providers,” Shorten said. “I found that there were gaps in opportunities for women to be informed and engaged in decisions about their birth.”
This research was used to develop decision aids explaining different modes of birth with a goal of shared decision making between the patient and provider, as well as promoting positive birth experiences. She developed and clinically tested the first evidence-based decision aid around birthing options following a previous caesarean, which has been translated into four languages, and is still informing research today.
“It’s exciting to see my research being put into practice and positively impacting women and families. These decision aids are about translating evidence from sound research into terms that patients can understand and use to make decisions with their providers,” Shorten said. “This research has spanned many cities, and it has been able to reach women across the world.”
Shorten is also UAB School of Nursing’s Director of the Office of Interprofessional Curriculum.
Connie Barden, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, CCNS (MSN 1982) is Chief Clinical Officer for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Barden took on this role in 2014 and is the first AACN Chief Clinical Officer. She received her Master’s of Nursing graduate from UAB School of Nursing in 1982.
Teresa N. Gore, PhD, DNP, FNP-BC, NP-C, CHSE-A (DNP 2009) is Director of the University of South Florida College of Nursing, as well as an associate professor and assistant dean of experiential learning/ simulation. She received her Doctor of Nursing Practice from UAB School of Nursing in 2009. Gore received the Marie L. O’Koren Alumni Award for Innovation in Teaching from the Nursing Chapter of the UAB Alumni Society in 2013.
Carolynn Thomas Jones, DNP, RN (BSN 1986, DNP 2013) is the Associate Professor of Clinical Nursing and Faculty Lead for the Master of Clinical and Preclinical Research program at the Ohio State University College of Nursing. She is a two-time graduate from UAB School of Nursing, receiving her Bachelor’s in Nursing in 1986 and her DNP with a concentration on clinical research nurse role delineation in 2013.
Lisa Muirhead, DNP, ANP-BC, FAANP (DNP 2009) is an associate clinical professor at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, as well as the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing VA Nursing Academic Partnership Director. She received her Doctor of Nursing Practice from UAB School of Nursing in 2009, and her areas of expertise include acute and chronic care, gerontology and elder health, health disparities, public health, veteran health and vulnerable populations.
Pamela Pieper, PhD, APRN, PPCNP-BC, TCRN, FAANP (MSN 1983) is trauma program manager at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Florida and clinical associate professor at the University of Florida College of Nursing. She received her Master’s of Nursing from UAB School of Nursing in 1982.